Conversion of Peat-fired power stations to Biomass being investigated by Minister Naughten

Published by Dave Brooks on

June 7th, 2016

The feasibility of converting three peat-fired power stations in the Midlands to biomass is being examined by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, T.D.

This option is under examination as the possibility of the Edenderry plant failing to secure planning approval could mean that the jobs of the 800-900 people directly employed across all three power plants may be compromised. Refitting the plants to burn Biomass is one way in which employment in the region could be secured.

The midlands T.D., who is Ireland’s first Minister with specific responsibility for taking action on Climate Change, said: “From my perspective as a Midlands TD, biomass has to be grown here in Ireland. One -because of the carbon impact of that, but two – because of jobs.” The importance of growing the Biomass locally cannot be underestimated from a sustainability perspective, as the example of the Drax powerplant in the UK showed that biomass could potentially be more carbon intensive than coal.

Furthermore, a larger debate about the accuracy of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in rating the carbon emissions of the combustion of Biomass at zero could lead to a loss of the ‘carbon neutral’ status of the fuel source (i.e. questioning the assumption that the carbon dioxide released through the planting, harvesting and burning of biomass is merely background carbon that would not otherwise be absorbed by plant life, and accounting for the time lapse between releasing the carbon stored in one tree and recapturing it in a newly planted tree).

In order to avoid fines and meet our EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 40% for 2030 (it is projected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that Ireland will significantly miss its 2020 target of 20%), a swift move from carbon-intensive and inefficient peat burning for electricity to renewable sources is necessary.

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Dave Brooks

Dave works as Communication Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. His background is in psychology and he has a masters in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey.